Listener's Guide

About Bob Ellis - Callsign G8YQL

Bob Ellis has a great future behind him, devoting a life to radio in support of it, talking through it and admiring others who made up radio's greatest days.

On The Radio

Founder Member of Radio Link, a hospital radio network where he engineered, produced and presented music programmes and got a taste for news and copy writing. Produced idents and jingles which he learns to his horror are still used across the national network.

Broadcast Assistant at BBC Derby working on major charity events, The Money Mountain and Children In Need in production and presentation.

Voice-over for many local radio adverts and promotional videos. A great face for radio.

Through The Radio

He writes with more style than knowledge after twelve years at Lowe Electronics. Hams aware of their licence restrictions always called it The Matlock Emporium as if every other dealer was based there. It was here that pioneering work in HF systems was done but not by him. By then he already had 25 years or more as a listener and could use his servicing experience to advise The Great JT on the HF Series receivers and what our customers were likely to do with them.

From this came The Book Of Herberts, an internal publication where the workshop team could log their angst as our radios were abused.

12-volt sets plugged directly into the wall socket, reverse polarised, transmitted into, modified out of recognition, poor long-wave reception using the TV aerial. That sort of thing...

So The Listener's Guide was born, running to three print editions. But as the management style changed in the 90s, Bob Ellis and his Guide had to go.

Lowe Production was set in up Cromford and there was attempts to revive the Guide but to no avail. Enter our hosts W3Z who keep the spirit of The Guide alive.

Going Back

Radio was a big part of the job at ROSCOM. Something called a Customer Support Engineer who tried to explain to mobile phone companies why a signal at 945MHz did not go around corners and with all the extra services a mobile now supplies, still doesn't.

As the money moved to 1800MHz with no improvement in cornering, he found there was two camps. Those who sell phones and those who know how they work.

Before that, he worked at COMET fixing audio-visual kit trying to get the porn tape out of the Betamax before the wife came home...

It gets a blur if we go back any further, but he does remember being an apprentice at PEKTRON, building prototypes and watching for blue smoke.

And Now?

Bob Ellis has retired from the NHS. The only way to leave with any dignity in a culture where the bully is king.


Derby School coming out with scrape-pass O Levels in English, Maths, Chemistry and Physics as if anyone knows what an O Level is these days.

Then Derby University, coming out with an HNC in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and a Credit Pass in Theory and Practice, Radio Amateurs Certificate C&G 7650.

Leisure Interests Past And Present

Writing articles if anyone asks and enjoys walking in Derbyshire on a pub-to-pub basis. A hard life but a happy one. He still loves coding for the web as the following shows:

Developing Special Interest Websites

If you are a web developer, this is just for you.

This site goes back to the Nineties. Our page template was set as a table. We got clever designing our header with images and text set in another table. We positioned things by nesting tables inside tables and thought we were super cool. No, we really did.

We decided we could make it better with scrolling banners, news tickers, page counters and clocks that loaded pretty graphics for each digit, all driven by client-side Java script pinging away to the server. Man, just how cool were we?

Not very. Each ping got in the way of that one important call to the over-worked server. The one that got the content. We know now content is king. End of story. Fin.

Back then, it was a dial-up world. Just outside the city, the best connection we ever got was 33k and that was very early in the morning when you hoped you had the phone network to yourself. Page loads were clunky and slow. The few users we had told us they could not wait for all the clever stuff to load. We ignored them because we thought we knew better.

Build It Well And They Will Come

We learned about CSS, DIV, UL and LI tags. Google was born and started giving away ideas to build better, simpler, cleaner websites. If they want to help, we could try listening?

We learned about KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. We found making a website simple was the hardest part. We stripped out code to the point where we wonder how this site stays together.

We made Google love us. Other search engines are available, but Google really want you to succeed and in any case what they do now the others soon follow.

We looked at other browsers. Internet Explorer was the boss, but the competition looked at the ever-evolving Web Standards and thought if they stick to the standards and we design to the standards, then the web is a better place for all of us.

We watched the rise of the tablet and smart phone and found that accommodating them was not too hard with CSS media-queries and HTML5. What we learned designing for dial-up was all you needed to know for the slower mobile connections. Actually, it was good fun and Google Analytics showed it was all worth it.

That Was Then But This Is Now

Let's stop kidding ourselves. This is just a hobby site about shortwave radio. Although shortwave is still needed in developing countries, we would sooner spend our money on some online device rather than on a new shortwave receiver. Stations are closing all the time, even less for a new listener to hear and another reason for old-timers to switch off the radio and listen to what remains online.

Content under pressure

We saw the falling visitor numbers as a challenge. We took up syndication of BBC Content because they wanted us to use their stuff to build our stuff and by listing all their online radio programmes, it showed the traditional listener that the way content is delivered is changing. Now most of the hits here are new listeners looking for podcasts leaving the shortwave pages unread.

There is still some interest in shortwave. In fact, since we declared that we are putting all our radio notes in an archive, we seem to have found a new market. Heritage and archive research is the thing but nothing like the traffic we saw when radio listening on a radio set was king.

So what have we learned? You can build a really good website from a technical point of view but if the content is not relevant or interesting, then you can't expect big audiences.

And yes, we know there is still work to do on the design side but we know it will just be a labour of love. Our radio days are over, the audience is moving on and we are left with that one question you must ask when working on a special interest website. Who cares?